A DONEGAL schoolboy is aiming for the big leagues after he saw off all challengers to win a top adult tournament.
Alex Hughes, an 11-year-old from Inver, was among 40 players to step up to the oche in Kirk’s Bar in Clady at the weekend.
The majority of those competing were well-established league players but it was the Frosses National School pupil who held his nerve to clinch the title with a double tops finish.
In winning the tournament Alex booked his place at the Worthington’s Champion of Champions final in Cardiff on August 26.
The pint-sized marksman’s rise up the ranks of the darting world has been little short of meteoric, having only picked up a set of arrows for the first time two years ago.
But with the 180s coming thick and fast, the fame and fortune enjoyed by the likes of Michael Van Gerwin, Phil Taylor and Claudy’s Daryl Gurney is already beckoning.
Outlining how it all began, Alex’s dad Peter told the Donegal News, “His granny bought him a dartboard for Christmas when he was five or six but it lay in the cupboard until two years ago.
“Then at the start of the summer we were having a bit of a party so I decided to clear out an outhouse and put in a bar. You can’t have a bar without a dartboard so I put one up and Alex started playing from there. He hasn’t stopped since.”
Alex Hughes made his competitive debut at the age of nine in Drimarone, winning his very first game.
“At that stage he couldn’t even collect his own darts from the board. We learnt from that to bring a stool with us wherever we went,” Peter revealed.
It was during that competition Alex and his family met Jordan Boyce and his parents, Paddy and Caroline. Jordan recently came second in the BDO Youth Championships, making a televised appearance along the way.
That encounter led to Alex being selected to the Donegal Youth Team and an opportunity to shine at the All-Ireland championships.
His rising star has not gone unnoticed and earlier this year he picked up sponsorship from Red Dragon Darts, one of the biggest names in the business.
Speaking after the big win in Kirk’s, Red Dragon’s Head of Marketing, Simon Hall, said he was over the moon for the young player.
“Words failed me when I saw on Twitter that Alex had qualified for the finals as an 11-year-old darts player and I am still a bit shocked now.”
The weekend win marked a substantial step up in the schoolboy’s fledgling career and later this month it could get a whole lot better if he manages a strong performance in Cardiff. First though he will have to outplay 255 other throwers, including fellow Donegal man John Gallagher from Carrick.
But the young star himself appears to be taking it all in his stride.
“I was nervous going into the competition but when I got past the first round I settled a bit and started getting going. When I was a leg away from the semi-final, I felt then that I could win it,” Alex said.
Facing Donegal’s Alan Byrne in the final, the young Inver thrower went a leg up before conceding the second. He stood firm though to close out the match with a fearless double 20.
Looking to the future, Alex said he hopes to replicate the success of his hero, Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor by eventually winning a world title.
“When I was younger I wanted to be a professional footballer. But that has gone out the window now and I just want to play darts,” he said.